A fixture in the Baltimore scene, Dan Keech, aka Height of Height With Friends, spent the majority of his 2013 altering the frame of his band. Height With Friends bravely sought a balance between rap and indie rock throughout its existence, but last year it let the scale tip towards the pension for 80s rap tapes. Keech released two mixes, entitled No Gun Shots At Our Parties, and an album inspired by the live recordings found on the mixes entitled Height With Friends Versus Dynamic Sounds.
The mixes and record homage the origins of hip hop in the Bronx and from the booming systems of Kool Herc, Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. Full of toasting, braggadoccio, and traditional story-rap, Height With Friends Versus Dynamic Sound proved the band's interaction with the genre and culture was a deeply rooted admiration for the source material. The No Gun Shots At Our Parties volumes all begin the same, a sample lifted from a house party in which an emcee assures the crowd not to panic of vacate the gathering – it was only a fire cracker.
With Vol.3 of the series focusing on West Coast rap and spanning 1980-86, I asked Height to comment on the differences he sees in the eastern and western aesthetics of early hip hop. He offered the following:
I was asked to say what sets this first wave of West Coast hip-hop apart from the NYC hip-hop that preceded it. To me, the rhymes seem to come from more of a place of dreams and fantasy. The MCs are all conceptually ambitious.Their lyrics are far-reaching, and they seem to be optimistic about what they'll be able to communicate in their songs. They seem more comfortable telling stories and painting pictures than rocking endless party rhymes.
Musically, it seems like they didn't wipe the slate clean, the way they did on the East. Where NYC hip-hop defined itself in opposition to the sterile disco of the time, the West Coast MCs seemed more in harmony with the other contemporary sounds around them. It's less as if the RESET button had been pushed on music, and more as if rap was just merged with every other cool thing that was going on at the time.
The music is less rooted in a live tradition, and is more of a studio creation. While the early NYC records are all referring back to kids quick-mixing “Apache” in a rec center, the west coast guys were inspired by fully formed studio cuts like “Planet Rock” and “The Message”. Some of the NYC originators saw the live show as the be-all and end-all, and could barely be convinced to get in the studio and record songs.The west coast pioneers first experienced rap through rap records, and perhaps they saw making a record as the point.
That could all be in my head though… Hopefully, you'll enjoy these tight songs!
Listen to No Gun Shots At Our Parties Vol.1 & 2 here.
No Gun Shots At Our Parties Vol. 3 tracklisting:
01 Hurt'em Bad – Martin Luther King
02 Kid Frost – Terminator
03 MC Fosty and Lovin' C – Radio Activity Rapp (Let's Jam)
04 Greg Mack and World Class Wrecking Cru – (Unreleased Xmas Rap)
05 Half-Breed – I'm Sick Of It *
06 Ice-T – Cold Wind Madness
07 Ice-T – The Coldest Rap
08 Ice-T – Interview on Merv Griffin Show (1985)
09 Rodney O and Joe Cooley – Live on K-Day
10 Toddy Tee – Lost In Space
11 Jazzy Dee – Live at Radio Tron (1984)
12 Caution Crew – Westside Story
13 Members Only Crew – You're Just Not Down
14 Ice-T- Live on K-Day
15 Disco Daddy – Zodiac Rhymes
16 Poor Boy Rappers – Low Rider Rap
17 Too Short – Wild Wild West
18 Breakin n Enterin (1983)
19 Steve Walker – Tallyho
* Halfway through putting this mix together, I realized that the song “I'm Sick Of It” by Half Breed was written and recorded in Detroit, not LA. The song was too tight to exclude from the mix.